For years coffee has been a guilty pleasure, living in the shadow of its antioxidant-laden caffeinated cousin, tea. But more and more studies are linking Australia’s new favourite cuppa with surprising health benefits.
The latest study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, shows coffee could have a protective effect on one of our most common cancers – and increases survival rates of those being treated for the disease.
Coffee has already been shown to positively impact type-2 diabetes risk. Risk factors for this condition – obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, a Western diet high in calories and sugar plus high levels of insulin – are also implicated in colon cancer, so researchers set out to examine the effects of coffee on this disease.
Scientists at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Centre at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the US discovered that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day can increase the chances of surviving bowel cancer.
Studying the outcomes of 950 patients who had been treated for stage 3 bowel cancer found those who had a minimum of four cups of caffeinated coffee a day were 42 per cent less likely to have a tumour recurrence than non-coffee drinkers. They also were 33 per cent less likely to die from cancer or any other cause.
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Patients who drank two to three cups of coffee daily had a more modest benefit, while little protection was associated with one cup or less.
It seems the protective effect was related to the caffeine in coffee, however the researchers are not recommending anyone step up their coffee habit at this stage.
“If you are a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don’t stop,” he said. “But if you’re not a coffee drinker and wondering whether to start, you should first discuss it with your physician.”
The Cancer Council of Australia told the Western Australian newspaper it does not specifically recommend increasing or decreasing coffee consumption to reduce cancer risk or prevent recurrence. “People who are undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment should seek the advice of an oncology dietician, who can speak to their specialist about their specific case to determine the best diet for their needs,” said a spokesperson.
There are still some health concerns associated with drinking too much coffee, for people with high blood pressure, for example.
Are you a coffee lover? Is this emerging body of evidence for coffee music to your ears?